The Pine Bluff Grider Field Aviation Museum Inc. will host an annual fundraiser on Saturday, May 20, featuring pilots conducting aerial maneuvers — if the weather cooperates.
The organization hopes to raise money to preserve a World War II-era barrack at Pine Bluff Regional Airport-Grider Field and convert it into a museum. The event will start at 11 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. and feature pilots flying over Grider Field from about noon until 1 p.m. Saturday's forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service.
However, ground-level events will take place regardless of the weather, airport officials assured. Tickets can be purchased at the Grider Field office. Tyson Chicken is sponsoring the event, and they will have cook teams preparing chicken meals for $10 each. Proceeds benefit the aviation museum.
In other news, the Black Pilots of America will fly airplanes to Grider Field from Thursday, May 25, to Sunday, May 28, for the 21st year of interactive exercises dubbed Operation Skyhook. The pilots showcase their flying skills by competing in exercises, mingling with guests and answering questions. They will provide flights to area children provided the weather is favorable.
“Preparations are underway and we are cleaning up our [airport] field to get ready for company,” Doug Hale, airport manager, said during a Thursday meeting of the Airport Commission. “We are trying to get the mowing done. I think our airfield is looking pretty good.”
Hale wrote a proclamation letter welcoming the pilots and it will be presented at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, May 26, at the Pine Bluff Regional Airport Grider Field. The event attracts pilots from California, New Jersey, Michigan, Florida, New York State, Texas, Missouri, and elsewhere, Hale said.
“We are expecting a good turnout,” he said. “Everyone keep your fingers crossed and pray for good weather. I am looking forward to it.”
Ken Johnson is a member of the Black Pilots of America and chairman of the Aviation Commission. He thanked Hale and other city employees for working to host the event for the 21st consecutive year.
“I had no idea when I extended the first invitation in 1996 or 1997 that it would actually expand,” Johnson said. “I appreciate you all for making it happen.”
In financial news, Doug Hale said Porterfield and Company CPA conducted an audit of Pine Bluff Regional Airport in April and conducted a sampling from financial record-keeping books. Hale said this is a routine matter in accordance with the law and that Porterfield has not found anything out of the ordinary.
“They will put a report together,” Hale said. “I will get ahead of our meeting next month and get it to the commission for their review. We will have a conference call with Porterfield to discuss the report and if the commission approves the report a motion will be made and I will submit it to the city clerk the following day.”
“We've never had any issues with our books,” Hale said.
In other financial news, Hale gave an unaudited financial statement for April 2017. The airport had income of $65,858.56, cost of goods sold of $37,449.41, and a gross profit of $28,409.15. Commissioners Dr. Michele Pashkevich, Tommy Palmer, Kenneth Collins, Keidra Burrell and Ken Johnson voted to approve the financial statement. Commissioners Harvey Sizemore and Rocky Thornburg were absent from the meeting.